Date: December, 1996
page: title: The Tool of Provocation,Justin Chancellor offers scabs for thougt author: Leah Lin I spent the last couple of nights seeing the first few dates of the Tool tour. Two questions are worrying me, and they seem to have a direct relationship to each other: 1) Why are Tool fans so ardent, and 2) why are human beings drawn to things that disturb them? Why do we slow down and strain to look at a car accident? Why is it exhilarating to be frightened? What is the fascination for that which is hideous or disfigured? I am not pondering anything new or anything that you probably havenít already asked yourself. As children, we are scolded to stop looking at the man with one arm, or turn away from the blood scattered across a shattered windshield, only to grow up and turn away when we are caught staring or stare until we are sickened. I found myself staring at vocalist Maynard James Keenan in much the same manner as I might look at someone who is tragically crippled--with curiosity, squeamishness, personal relief and, finally, compassion. Keenan rocked back and forth on stage, teetering like an ancient rocking horse, slouched and contorted into a posture that made him seem physically deformed. There was no visible strain in his neck as he sang in a voice that was painfully fragile, yet somehow so strong and commanding that my ears took my mind off looking at him. I felt embarrassed to be staring at him so blatantly, my jaw slung open in awe. As I watched Tool perform live, time seemed to stand still, these thoughts swirling through my head. I snapped to my senses when I heard the opening bass riff of my current favorite song, "Forty-six &2" off the new album, nima. nima is Toolís second full length album and third recording. The first, an EP entitled Opiate, was released in March of 1992. Undertow, the bands first full length disc, was released in April of 93. This album brought Tool to the Lollapalooza stage, a show they should have headlined. It spawned two distinctively disturbing, stop-motion animated videos. The first was "Sober," which won two Billboard Video Awards. The second, "Prison Sex," was nominated for Best Special Effects at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. Undertow went platinum within a year of its release, and the readers of Spin Magazine voted Tool "Number One Artist." Bass player Paul DíAmour left the band in September of 95. Which, sort of, brings us up to date? Back to the first few dates of the nima tour, back to the enthusiastic Tool fan, up to Justin Chancellor (Toolís new bassist), and back to "Forty-six & 2." This song, more than any other on the album, is a product of the new and improved Tool. Justin, formerly of the UK band Peach, has been a member of Tool just one year now, and pinpoints "Forty-six & 2" as the first song he really contributed to. "(I had a big part in) songs like 'Forty-six & 2.' I think that there is a whole different recipe now between the four of us. Iíve always liked a lot of heavy stuff, but, more than that I am into a more sonically psychedelic sound. I have brought a lot of depth, a lot of color and texture to the band." "Basically we wrote all the songs together, except four of them: Stinkfist, nima, Eulogy, and Pushit (were pretty much finished). The rest was the four of us. When I first came out, I kind of went into my shell a little bit because it was pretty overwhelming. At this point, I am completely myself again, totally relaxed and getting on with everyone. Itís really cool. I was actually surprised how much respect they had. I mean, I always had that for them, but I wasnít expecting to be treated as such an equal that it has turned out to be." Justinís brother bumped into Matt Marshall while traveling in the US, and the two became friends. They would exchange demos, one of which was Toolís. Matt turned out to be the A&R person who signed Tool to Zoo Entertainment. When Peach came to America on a short tour, Justin met Matt through his brother. Matt would later introduce Peach to Tool. "(Peach) had four gigs here where we had to sneak our guitars in through customs. We played Club Lingerie, Black and Blue, really small gigs. Matt was a good friend of my brother. My brother ran his own label, Mad Minutes at the time. Both he and Matt were working in music, so they sent each other stuff. I first met (Tool) in New York when they were touring with the Rollins Band. When Tool came to England for an eight-date tour, they took (Peach) out with them." By this time, Justin had become a huge fan of Tool and Tool a fan of Justin. When Paul D'Amour left the band, guitarist Adam Jones called and asked him if he'd like to try out. Justin moved to the States a year ago November, when he found himself in the enviable position of fan and band member. "It feels like I have been away from England for years now," says Justin. "It's weird, because all of my friends are doing the same thing that they were doing before and I feel like I'm in space or something. Tool is the only band that I would have left what I was doing to join. They are my favorite band. It is just now getting really comfortable. There is that immediate kind of fear that you're not going to be worthy. If you are a fan of someone else's music, then when youíre suddenly expected to help write it... there is a bit of apprehension." I can't help asking Justin if he ever catches himself staring at Maynard in astonishment, as I admittedly have done. He has, and is quick to elaborate on each of his other bandmates: drummer Danny Carey (34), Adam (31), and Maynard (somewhere in between). Danny Carey once worked with Green Jello, played drums in Pygmy Love Circus (whose Marco Fox contributes the vocals for "Die Eier Von Satan"), and "...is probably most similar character-wise" to Justin. "Danny is great. He's in his thirties going on 12. We like to hang out, go out, where Adam and Maynard are slightly weirder and not as accessible. Danny is a really open, straight-up person. I'm kind of like that as well. "Maynard is an intense personality. I remember when I first saw Tool it was kind of the same thing. I didnít take it as being scary. I took it as being totally intense--something that really sucked me in, watching him. I always looked up to him a bit before, because he was so cool with my last band, being very supportive. He has his moments, but now we have all learned each other's personality traits and got used to each other." In January of 1994, Adam Jones was hard at work on the video for "Prison Sex." He took time out of a nearly 24-hour, non-stop, month long schedule to talk with Axcess when I first met him. He had previously supported himself as a sculptor and special effects artist on movies such as Terminator 2 and Predator, where he learned stop-motion camera techniques. Tool's "Prison Sex" and "Sober" required excruciatingly focused patience from Adam. To get one second of film footage, a total of 24 pictures had to be taken--moving the models a tiny fraction, taking a photo, again and again, and again. Where Maynard is visually and vocally intense, Adam is twice that when it comes to the visuals that accompany Tool's music. As the band takes a two day break in San Francisco, Adam is flying back to LA for one day to finish the video for "Stinkfist," a video that they refer to as experimental. Justin reflects on the past year in amazement as he describes his part in the creation of the video. "The video is another really, really cool thing for me. When I found out that I got in the band, I was really excited about that side of things as well. I'm not necessarily a full on artist, but I have always drawn and been into that side of things. For the video I just started off helping out, cleaning molds and stuff. We were all making the effects. I started off doing these menial little jobs and learning. "By the end of it, I did these three sculptures, where we took a body cast of my girlfriend. I had to pour out these molds and make them all in different positions. So I had these three sets of different limbs and stuff where I had to break them up and put them back together. They are like and embryo inside a tank or jar or something, but a full-size body. I would be working all night until morning, to where I ended up being just as focused as Adam. By the end of it, I was like, 'Fuck, I am doing all this shit that I wouldn't have had a clue about before.' "We've got them on tour with us as part of the staging, along with a projected backdrop. It's pretty much all the videos, stuff that Adam has collected. We just found this new load of stuff, close-ups of chemical reactions in little petri dishes. It looks like something out of Star Wars, but it's actually just this little chemical reaction that's all trippy and very surreal looking." Justin describes the beginning of the tour as grueling. The first date in Pomona, California, he didnít look up from the stage once. The second date in San Diego, he glanced out into the crowd only a few times. "It was kind of funny, because Pomona was pretty horrible for me, being my first show. We'd only practiced like six times, because we were finishing up on the video. I like playing and touring. I mean I've never really toured more than those eight gigs in a row. I found that in England the feeling that you get afterwards is 'Wow, I want to do that again.' Itís an amazing opportunity to keep playing and improving every time you play." It seems that Tool has welcomed Justin into the fold completely. One of the descriptive characteristics of Tool's music is the fact that the bass parts of the music are played more like guitar parts, not just as accompanying rhythm parts. Tool has prided itself as a true band, each part being equally as important as the other. This concept is illustrated by the way Tool writes songs and by the importance they put on their lyrics as part of the song as a whole. "Adam was probably the person that I knew most, so I was pretty comfortable with him, and we had even jammed a bit before any of this happened. We have a very similar writing style. That really helps with the foundations of songs. We click really good. I played guitar for many years, so I can totally appreciate what he is doing, and he appreciates what I am doing. We really like to explore an idea. There is never a question of someone bringing in a song and saying 'Look I've written a song. This is it.' We bring in ideas and throw them about, and we play with them and explore them until we think we have found the most appropriate way of using them. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but you need that little bit of tension and aggro to push it to another level. That song 'Forty-six & 2,' that started off as me bringing up an idea and Adam and I just messing around with it." "Forty-six & 2" begins with Justin's riff that is as erotic as it is tormenting. Lyrically, it refers to the possible evolution of the genetic make-up of man. "Human beings' DNA is 44 and two," Justin explains. "Two pairs of 22 and the x and the y chromosomes. Forty-five and two is supposedly the next stage of our genetic makeup that we will evolve into." Shadows. Shedding skin. I've been picking scabs again. Up down, digging through, my old muscles, for a clue I've been crawling on my belly, Figuring out what could have been. I've been wallowing in my own confused, insecure delusions. For a beast to cross me over, or a word to guide me in, I want to feel the changes coming down, I want to know what Iíve been hiding. In my shadow. My shadow. Change is coming, through my shadow. My shadow, shedding skin, Iíve been picking my scabs again. I've been crawling on my belly, clearing out what could have been, I've been wallowing in my own chaotic, insecure delusions. I want to feel the change consume me, feel the outside turning in. I want to feel the metamorphosis and cleansing out enjoying. My shadow. My shadow. Change is coming, now it's my time... forty-six and 2, just ahead of me. Picking scabs hurts and wallowing in confusion isnít the most comfortable of positions. But to Tool, anything that is worthwhile isn't easy and should hurt. Lachrymology is the science or study of crying. According to a 1994 interview, Danny stated that the band name Tool was shortened from Toolshed, and that Tool stands for how they want their music to be a tool to aid in the understanding of lachrymology. Lachrymology's founder Ronald P. Vincent believes that people can only advance themselves by exploring and understanding their physical and emotional pain. If you can embrace that notion, Tool becomes less scary. But don't expect the band ever to spell anything out, or make it a bit easier to draw such conclusions by printing their own lyrics. "Personally, I think it's a good thing not to print the lyrics, because it puts a lot more importance on them," says Justin. "I'd be happy not ever to do that. When you buy the record, you have to make the effort to study it and listen to it and work out what is going on. If you want to hear what is going on you should spend the time to listen to it. Also, when you print lyrics they become immediately out of context--they are on a piece of paper. That is not the way they are supposed to be. They are part of the music as well. They are part of the song. You are supposed to listen to them with the music. I think that is a big thing with Tool--not putting stuff on a plate for people. It requires the listeners participation totally. Put on a pair of headphones and watch the goosebumps pop up on your arms as Adam screeches across his guitar strings in the bridge of "Eulogy". Seek out information and recordings from the late comedian Bill Hicks, who appears in the CD sleeve portrait and whose voice ushers in "Third Eye." Do some research on lysergic acid diethyl amide, serotonin and the 85% of our brains that we don't use. Consider the power of vocal inflection and foreign language on recipes for baked goods while listening to "Die Eier Von Satan" and "Message to Harry Manback." Or, contemplate how all the songs follow a theme. Appreciate that Tool is able to combine all of this into a complex, provocative piece of work. nima is easily the best album to come out of 1996. The more I think, ask questions, probe, and learn about Tool, they less disturbing and more stimulating they become. Tool fans have waited three years for this album and made it debut at #2 on the Billboard Charts; a feat that was accomplished without mainstream radio airplay, without MTV, without compromising any of their subject matter or convictions. Justin prefers provocative to disturbing as he wraps up out conversation with his theory on why Tool fans are so passionate. "Maybe provocative or thought provoking is the way I'd describe Tool. I can't really say why we have themes that are disturbing in some sort of a way. It is not an intention. To me, it is not disturbing, it's just kind of... if people are disturbed by that kind of stuff, to me, that implies that they are frightened to look too close. It's more trying to create some kind of reaction and set some kind of a mood. All the artwork, videos and everything are designed to focus right into the music and create the mood that will heighten your experience of the music. It's not intentionally disturbing. I just thinks it's stuff that perhaps people haven't confronted before, and so that's a little bit scary. We affect people on a deeper level." Visit their label website at http://www.zoology.com/ and find official biographical information, tour dates, news about each of the band members, and video snippets. Better yet, try http://www.hotbot.com/ and search for Tool. Hotbot will modify your search with a keyword like Maynard. You will find old interviews, photos, information on bootlegs, lyrics, FAQ's and live reviews from people who arenít afraid to look closely, maybe even stare awhile and look down some perceptions.
Posted to t.d.n: 05/03/97 15:29:57